Virtual Gourmet

  July 22,  2018                                                                                            NEWSLETTER

Founded in 1996 



By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


By John Mariani


    0ne might be quite content eating out in a charming small city like Bruges, in northwest Belgium, by hopping from one local eatery to another for Belgian waffles, frites and mussels, visit some brew pubs or even the Michelin-starred restaurants (whose food is mostly French).  But there are a number of places that have struck a balance of tradition and modernity on their menus. Others have adapted a more global approach of a kind you’ll find throughout Europe right now.  Here are some of those I enjoyed most on a trip this spring.


Vismarkt 8

    Vistrois a Belgian play on the word “bistro” and the visscherie refers to its location right across from the city’s Fish Market, so you can be absolutely sure of the freshness of what is served each night, which is actually only four days a week.  This has been a favorite of locals for 40 years now, under the ownership of Tillo Declercq.
    Behind a charming old white façade there is a sleekly modern, very colorful two-tiered dining room done in taupe and gray, with good table settings and flowers.  Very light music plays pleasantly in the background. As everywhere, the staff speaks perfect English and is particularly good at recommending wines to go with Chef Kevin Wiebouw’s contemporary Belgian cuisine.
    The four-course chef’s menu is a steal at 45 euros and you’ll get a good representation of his strength, which, as you might have guessed, is seafood (there is also a seafood menu at €58). We began with a glass of a sparkling wine called Entre Deux Monts (€45) while enjoying an amuse of artichoke puree and dense brown bread. Lightly smoked eel melded well with Belgian duck foie gras and salad greens, while the sweet grey shrimp of the region were poached and peppery, and stuffed with a cream sauce.  Very lightly smoked wild salmon was a superb example from the rivers of Scotland.
    Since this was May, the white asparagus were in full flourish, so I ate them every chance I got. At Vistro, they came with Spanish bellota ham and a glass of Wijndmein Aldeneyck Pinot Gris 2015 (€47.50 by the bottle), whose tang went beautifully with the salty ham.  Skrei is a gray cod very limited in its season, fished north of Norway, so it’s a fine, fat, fleshy fish, here further graced with a foamy shrimp and white asparagus infusion with an eggplant mash and potato puree. For dessert the ripest of strawberries were served with a chocolate mousse.
    The meal was quite light with just the right amount of fat in the prime ingredients, demonstrating how Belgian’s young chefs are showing restraint while showing off their innovative talents.

Open for lunch and dinner Thurs.-Sun.


Garenmarkt 34

    One of Christophe’s two dining rooms’ walls is hung with a curious, garishly colored photo of two people, their backs to one another, who may or may not have just had sex, while across from it in the next room is a photo of Picasso looking shocked, a winking quirkiness that sets the tone at Christophe, a very popular spot for a cross-section of young Brugeians and travelers who come for first-rate, updated Belgian fare.
    They bring you a little bite of carrots with a Bearnaise sauce, which was a nice touch with the Negroni cocktail I ordered.  The obligatory shrimp croquettes (€17) were very crunchy and tender inside, while the white asparagus with a mousseline (€20) had all the sweetness of the season in them.
    There are a lot of straightforward grilled meats on the menu, including an Irish ribeye in Cognac-laced pepper sauce (€29). Crispy baked sweetbreads were a special that evening, served simply with potato, and veal came in a Viennese style with well-buttered spaghetti (€28). There was also a seafood waterzooi (€28), whose sauce of egg yolks and cream married marvelously well to the morsels of seafood—apparently, the way this classic was originally made. They also serve one of the best versions of carbonnade (right)—here called stoverij—I’ve had: a steaming plate of beef stew, intensely flavorful from being made with dark Belgian beer (€29).  The Belgian frites are as plump and crisp as any in Bruges.
    Desserts are equally traditional, from a fine platter of fat profiteroles (€8.50) to a chocolate mousse (€8.50).

Open for dinner Thurs.-Mon.


Sint-Jakobsstraat 36

    For a place with such a Millennials’ look, De Republiek actually serves some serious Belgian food, along with global everything, within a very casual atmosphere. Actually it’s also a very old restaurant that’s been restored to its current bistro-style modernity.  On a side street off the Grand Market, the huge space is within what was built as a butter house in 1580 and was transformed over the centuries into a concert hall in 1830, and in the 20th century a movie theater. Today the structure houses not only the restaurant but sections devoted to film, art and public debates on culture.
    The menu ranges widely, from a very well-rendered and spiced beef tartare (€19.50) with a salad to a chicken vol-au-vent (€20); beef carpaccio (€19) and “green” vegetarian burger (€17) to an array of tapas at night (€8-12). We had the vis van de dag—fish of the day from the North Sea—a grilled fillet with poached vegetables (€21).  Best of all was a shank of Iberian ham (
€20) cooked slowly like osso buco surrounded by stewed vegetables and sweet potato—as hearty and soulful a dish as you’ll find in town.
    For dessert go with the chocolate crumble with grapefruit (€9; right).

Open daily for lunch and dinner.


    I stayed at a uniquely lovely new hotel built on solid old bones. Opened only last year and owned and run with grace by Dimitri Thirion and Betty Devos, Hotel Jan Brito (Freren Fenteinstraat 1; 32-50-33-0601) was once a 16th century manor house now composed of 37 individual guest rooms with very fine bathrooms and a staff that could not possibly be more friendly or knowledgeable. It’s a very romantic spot centered around a garden, with a sunny breakfast room, elegant reading room, and its location just right around the corner from the Fish Market and a few more steps to the Church of Our Lady and Grand Market makes it an ideal spot that is remarkably quiet for being so much in the center of things.




By John Mariani
Photos by Jason Greenspan

553 Manhattan Avenue (at 123rd Street)

    The gastronomic progress in Harlem has little of the fevered pitch of  Brooklyn, and it’s all the better for that. Harlem’s best new restaurants continue to serve their neighborhood, rather than cater to those who would never set foot on the A train unless propelled to do so by the food media.
    Clay, now open for a year, joins a slew of alluring restaurants like Vinateria, Maison Harlem,  Zoma and others that may lack the hype but enjoy brisk business via word-of-mouth.
    Sometimes you can tell immediately when a chef is cooking exactly what he wants, and every dish on Clay’s menu shows the taste and commitment of Chef Gustavo Lopez, whose work I previously enjoyed at Vinateria, DBGB and Lupa.
Wine Director Gabriela Davogustto and Bar Director Andrea Needell Matteliano also are on their games, providing both a wine list of unusual bottlings at all prices and a cocktail list of novelties.
    The restaurant is set on the corner of Manhattan Avenue and 123rd Street, which is fast being restored from those derelict days of the recent past. Clay’s white façade and interior lights boost the buoyant spirit on the block.  Inside, with a long, white marble bar to the left and tables to the right, the room, with a downstairs adjunct dining room, is done in off-white, with a
muted gray painting of fragmented clay pottery on one wall and rough-hewn white stone on another, all set atop terracotta flooring.  The sound level is mercifully civilized, with an appealing playlist by music director Javier Peral.
    Clay’s menu is hard to choose from because just about everything sounds so delicious, even a bowl of roasted nuts, fried sage and buckwheat ($8) to nibble on.  Just right for summer is the plate of heirloom tomatoes, watermelon, artisanal cheese and chewy pumpkin seeds ($16), as is a bright and colorful dish of raw fluke in a tangy bath.  As a surprise appetizer, pork belly with apple, fermented cabbage, mustard seed, lardo and kombu seaweed glaze ($19) showed how every dish Lopez conceives gets a sparking acidic edge that brightens every ingredient and serves as a foil to the fat.
    There are four pastas on the menu, not as throwaway dishes but as well-wrought hearty main courses that include light, perfectly rendered potato gnocchi (left) with fava beans, peas, oyster mushroom, hazelnuts, sage and pickled Fresno chile ($22) and a hefty bowl of wide paccheri macaroni in a long-simmered short rib ragù with a generous dousing of Parmigiano ($26).
    Tender lamb shank ($30) was a special one night, proving that there really is no such thing as a warm weather versus cold weather dish, and Lopez is expert at making a duck leg confit (right), luxuriously rich but not greasy in the least, with celeriac, smoked farro, collard greens and—here again the acid note—a gastrique ($32).  The flesh of black bass was a little soft from a moment too long in the heat but came both piping hot and well enhanced by shiitakes, corn, roasted peppers and a marvelous brown butter ($32).
    The mini-donuts with lemon verbena for dessert are a guilty pleasure, and the chocolate budino pudding with spiced pecans and meringue chips (left) is as sophisticated yet simple dessert as you could wish for. Yogurt panna cotta was, however, bland. Go ahead and enjoy one of the seven dessert wines offered.
    As with any true neighborhood restaurant, Clay is a place to drop into for a cocktail and bite at the bar, have a light repast of appetizers or have a full meal that will never be quite the same from week to week. The crowd is composed of locals, some just moved to Harlem, others from up the hill at Columbia University. There is none of that mad rush or lines of beseeching foodies bunched up at the hostess station.  At least for now, and I hope it stays just that way.

Open for dinner Tues.-Thurs.; Sunday for brunch.


By John Mariani


  Back in the mid-1970s, when I started to write about wine, more than a few angry readers asked how I could be objective when I was the head of my own winery.  And for more than forty years since I continue to be asked if I am related to John F. Mariani, proprietor and now chairman emeritus of the wine import firm Banfi Vintners.  I shake my head and answer no, then add that I’ve known the Mariani family (whose ancestors came from Umbria, mine from Abruzzo) for many years professionally and am happy to have them as an advertiser in this newsletter (see below). 
    So I’ve gotten to know their wines quite well, especially those from Tuscany, where Banfi began developing vineyards back in the late 1970s and where they invested in extensive a
mpelographic research over a ten-year period to come up with the 15 best, healthiest clones out of 650 of Sangiovese grapes, information they shared freely with their competitors. Before that, long-time producers didn’t really know much about their vineyards’ constitution or their vines’ ancestry.
    That was also at a time when the region’s Brunello di Montalcino began gathering renown as one of Italy’s finest red wines, then being produced by a handful of estates like Biondi Santi and Fattoria dei Barbi to be long-lived wines that could take decades to fully mature.
Back in 1975 only 800,000 bottles of Brunello were produced by 25 estates; by 1995 more than 3.5 million bottles were made by 120 estates; three years later there were 180, producing 7 million bottles annually, with 60 percent exported, and 25 percent of total production going to the U.S. market; Only about 20 percent is consumed locally around Montalcino and in Tuscany.  Banfi is by far the largest investor, where its estate is called Castello Banfi.
    The current vintage of Banfi’s Brunello di Montalcino ($80) was from a cool, rainy year, so the wine, while unfiltered, is lighter in body (alcohol is 13.5%) and therefore easier to drink earlier. A couple more years in bottle will surely add to its allure, but for now this is a solidly knit, velvety Brunello at a very reasonable price, with several in the same or lesser league going for $15-$20 more.
    Rosso di Montalcino shares the Sangiovese grape, but is a wine made for easy drinking while still retaining the varietal character. Banfi’s 2016 vintage ($27) spent only 10-12 months in oak, and I find it a remarkably refined example in the face of so many of what I call overpriced “restaurant rosso di Montalcinos” with little or no nuances of fruit layers.
    Castello Banfi makes a few wines unique to the estate, with Cum Laude 2014 ($40)—the name, as in graduating honors, means “with praise”—being an I.G.T. appellation, meaning it is typical of the region but made accordingly to the estate’s own blend. In this case, at 14.4% alcohol, Sangiovese makes up only a component of a wine whose principal grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, along with Merlot and Syrah, a unusual blend for Tuscany that results in a very fruity, very velvety wine adaptable to an array of foods, including pastas with tomato sauce or mushrooms.
    SummuS 2014 ($80) is made from grapes in the southern part of Montalcino, where stony, calcium-rich soil gives the wine its abundant mineral qualities. Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Syrah (25%) and Sangiovese (405%)--the blend differs in percentage each year--are first vinified separately, then transferred to French oak barriques, also separately, for 12-14 months. Only then are they blended and stored away for another 10-12 months and, finally, six months of bottle age.  The result is a wine that explains its name—“the greatest”—within the Banfi constellation, for it is indeed a very complex wine.  This one I really do want to keep in my cellar for another two or three years before it reveals all of its finesse, its tannins soften and the fruit and acid come into ideal balance.
    Banfi has since the 2012 vintage made a wine named Aska, with the current vintage 2015, which is made in the Bolgheri D.O.C. region noted for its so-called “Super Tuscans.” At $34, this is a bottle whose label reads only “red wine” and whose name is Etruscan for a “container” used not only to store wine and perfume but “to protect
hopes, dreams, happiness and joy, entrusted to Etruscan gods Cuatha and Sernia (Sun and Moon),” pictured on the label. There is not a drop of Sangiovese in this blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Cabernet Franc drawn from soils rich in limestone and clay—the latter not always ideal for Sangiovese.
    At 14% alcohol it is a medium-bodied wine aged for only ten months, so it has a pretty freshness in the bouquet and acid that gives it brightness. It’s a good summer red for chicken on the grill, veal chops and cheese like pecorino, Parmigiano and robiola.




"There’s no such thing as queer food — but once you start looking, it’s everywhere. There’s nothing explicitly queer about the dinner series hosted by French chef Laurent Quenioux on a sleepy side street in the Highland Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.  . . . And yet, as a gay man-ish person, I have always found these dinners to be an undeniably queer space, even if I couldn’t offer the exact reason why. Is it the fact that Quenioux is gay? That’s an important starting point, but plenty of events and restaurants run by gay chefs are not necessarily queer. Is it the decadent plates, each served by the chef with a pinch of backstory or a dirty little joke? Or the fact that you know you’re in when Quenioux sits down to sip a glass of wine, and whispers which cheese he smuggled over from Langres, the taste of which reminds him of an old lover? Or is it Quenioux’s expert social engineering? If the guest list is too heavy on newcomers and polite acquaintances, he will invite flamboyant close friends and previous attendees to shake things up. It’s not any one of these things, but it is all of them, a merging of ambition, sensuality, and social enchantment which is undeniably, ineffably queer."--Kyle Ftizpatrick, "Queer Food Is Hiding in Plain Sight," (6/28)


On the Australian version of MasterChef Prince Charles awkwardly didn’t eat a bite that was served to him during his guest appearance, where the contestants were asked to use local Australian ingredients, which included wallaby tartare topped with green ants, and goat's cheese mousse with bush spices. His wife Camilla added, “I hate to say this, but no garlic. Garlic is a no-no,”



Wine Column Sponsored by Banfi Vintners


   Wine is a joy year-round but in cooler weather one grape varietal has really taken center stage in my daily activities – that most Italian of grapes, Sangiovese, and its ultimate expression – Brunello di Montalcino.
    From mid-September through mid-October, the Sangiovese grown for our various styles of red wines are be harvested, culminating with the top selection for Brunello di Montalcino.
    Second, cooler weather here means it is time to start enjoying more red wines and especially Sangiovese based wines.  That includes Banfi’s cru of Brunello, Poggio alle Mura, literally the cream of the crop of our Sangiovese vineyards. Alongside our Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino, this year we introduced two more wines from the cru Poggio alle Mura – a Rosso di Montalcino and a Riserva of Brunello.  Rosso is sort of like the younger brother of Brunello, also made from 100% Sangiovese grapes but usually a selection from younger vines and the wine is aged only two years compared to the four required for Brunello.  The Riserva, on the other hand, is an even more selective harvest of Sangiovese, and ages for an additional year before release.
    What is so special about this cru Poggio alle Mura?  Well, it is the result our over 30 years of ongoing research at my family’s vineyard estate, Castello Banfi.  When we first began planting our vines there in the late 1970s studies from the University of Bordeaux indicated which strains of many varietals we should plant, based on the soil type and microclimate of each vineyard.  But when it came to the region’s native Sangiovese, there was only local lore, no scientific research.  So we took it upon ourselves to figure out this vine, and set off on three decades of incredibly detailed research.
    We started with 600 apparent variations on Sangiovese, because it is so susceptible to variations in weather and soil, and narrowed that down to 160 truly genetically different clones.  We planted a vineyard with two rows of each type, made wine from each of them, and charted the differences – remember, you only get one chance a year to make wine, so this took time.
    It took about ten years to get some concrete results, though we continue to experiment today and always will – you never stop learning in science and nature!  Once we determined which were the best, complementary clones that could be planted together to make the best Brunello, we chose to plant them in what we determined to be the optimal vineyard sites.  Coincidentally, the best soils and climate conditions are in the slopes surrounding the medieval fortress today known as Castello Banfi, known since Etruscan times as Poggio alle Mura – the walled hilltop.  Hence the name of our most special “cru” of Brunello, representing a synthesis between tradition and innovation.
    Though the focus of this study was our Brunello, all of our Sangiovese-based wines, including the super Tuscans SummuS, Cum Laude, and Centine, benefitted from this work.  And that’s the third reason for celebrating Sangiovese this month, for the range of wonderful reds that usher us into autumn!  One wine in particular was inspired by our research – the BelnerO, a Sangiovese dominant blend with what I like to call a kiss of Cabernet and a whisper of Merlot.  We grow the grapes a little differently for BelnerO than for Brunello, make the wine with less oak aging and released it earlier from the winery, providing a counterpoint to Brunello and a lovely terroir-driven wine in its own right.
     If you know Italians, you know that by nature we are multi-faceted, varying in mood, and always passionate.  As a nation, we span from the hot sunny beaches of Sicily near the African coast to the rugged mountains and Alpine ski slopes of Trentino-Alto Adige in the north.  Sangiovese is grown in almost all of Italy’s regions and reflects the unique nature of each; it is most famous (rightfully so) in Tuscany, yet even there it reflects the nuances of each hilltop, valley and subzone.  It has something a little different to say in Brunello than Chianti, Morellino than Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Rosso di Montalcino than Super Tuscan blends.
    Here is a smattering of Sangiovese-based wines that you may wish to get to know better, reflecting a spectrum that appeals to every occasion, every taste, and every budget.  We can assure you that the conversation will never become boring.

Recommendations for Celebrating Sangiovese 

BelnerO Proprietor’s Reserve Sangiovese – A refined cuvée of noble red grapes perfected by our pioneering clonal research. This dark beauty, BelnerO, is produced at our innovative winery, chosen 11 consecutive years as Italy’s Premier Vineyard Estate. Fermented in our patented temperature controlled French oak and aged approximately 2 additional years. Unfiltered, and Nitrogen bottled to minimize sulfites. 


Castello Banfi Brunello di Montalcino – Rich, round, velvety and intensely aromatic, with flavor hints of licorice, cherry, and spices. Brunello di Montalcino possesses an intense ruby-red color, and a depth, complexity and opulence that is softened by an elegant, lingering aftertaste. Unfiltered after 1998 vintage. 

Castello Banfi Rosso di Montalcino – Brunello's "younger brother," produced from select Sangiovese grapes and aged in barrique for 10 to 12 months. Deep ruby-red, elegant, vibrant, well-balanced and stylish with a dry velvety finish. 

Poggio all’Oro Brunello di Montalcino Riserva – A single vineyard selection of our most historically outstanding Sangiovese, aged five years before release, the additional year more than that required of Brunello including 6 months in barrel and 6 months more in bottle to grant its “Riserva” designation.  Incredible elegance and harmony. Intense with lots of fruit and subtle wood influence. Round, complete, well balanced with hints of chocolate and berries. Unfiltered after 1998.

Poggio alle Mura – The first tangible result of years of intensive clonal research on Montalcino’s native Sangiovese grape.  Estate bottled from the splendidly sun drenched vineyards surrounding the medieval Castello from which it takes its name.  The Brunello di Montalcino is seductive, silky and smoky.  Deep ruby in color with an expressive bouquet of violets, fruits and berries as well as cigar box, cedar and exotic spices. The Rosso di Montalcino is also intense ruby red.  The bouquet is fresh and fruity with typical varietal notes of cherry and blackberry, enriched by more complex hints of licorice, tobacco and hazelnut.  It is full bodied, yet with a soft structure, and a surprisingly long finish. The Poggio alle Mura Brunello di Montalcino Riserva is deep ruby red with garnet reflections and a rich, ample bouquet that hints of prune jam, coffee, cacao and a light balsamic note.  It is full and powerful, with ripe and gentle tannins that make it velvety and harmonious; this wine is supported by a pleasing minerality that to me speaks soundly of that special hillsidein southern Montalcino.

SummuS – A wine of towering elegance, SummuS is an extraordinary blend of Sangiovese which contributes body; Cabernet Sauvignon for fruit and structure; and Syrah for elegance, character and a fruity bouquet.  An elegant, complex and harmonious red wine. 

Cum Laude – A complex and elegant red which graduated “With Honors,” characterized by aromas of juicy berries and fresh spices.

Centine – A Cuvee that is more than half Sangiovese, the balanced consisting of equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.  Vinified in a firm, round style that easily accompanies a wide range of dishes, this is a smooth and fragrantly satisfying wine with international character, and a perennial favorite at my own dinner table. 

Banfi Chianti Superiore – The “Superiore” designation signifies stricter government regulations regarding production and aging requirements, as compared to regular Chianti.  An intense ruby red wine with fruit forward aromas and floral notes.  This is a round wine with well-balanced acidity and fruit.

Banfi Chianti Classico – An enduring classic: alluring bouquet of black fruit and violets; rich flavors of cherry and leather; supple tannins and good acidity for dining. 

Banfi Chianti Classico Riserva – Produced from select grapes grown in the "Classico" region of Chianti, this dry, fruity and well-balanced red has a full bouquet reminiscent of violets.

Fonte alla Selva Chianti Classico – This is our newest entry into the Chianti arena, coming from a 99 acre estate in Castellina, the heart of the Chianti Classico region.  The wine is a captivating mauve red that smells of cherry, plum and blackberry with hints of spice.  It is round, full and balanced with very good acidity.  

Col di Sasso – Sangiovese and Cabernet Sauvignon.  Luscious, complex and soft with persistent notes of fruit and great Italian style structure.



 Any of John Mariani's books below may be ordered from

   The Hound in Heaven (21st Century Lion Books) is a  novella, and for anyone who loves dogs, Christmas, romance, inspiration, even the supernatural, I hope you'll find this to be a treasured  favorite. The  story concerns how, after a New England teacher, his wife and their two daughters adopt a stray puppy found in their barn in northern Maine, their lives seem full of promise. But when tragedy strikes, their wonderful dog Lazarus and the spirit of Christmas are the only things that may bring his master back from the edge of despair. 


“What a huge surprise turn this story took! I was completely stunned! I truly enjoyed this book and its message.” – Actress Ali MacGraw

“He had me at Page One. The amount of heart, human insight, soul searching, and deft literary strength that John Mariani pours into this airtight novella is vertigo-inducing. Perhaps ‘wow’ would be the best comment.” – James Dalessandro, author of Bohemian Heart and 1906.

“John Mariani’s Hound in Heaven starts with a well-painted portrayal of an American family, along with the requisite dog. A surprise event flips the action of the novel and captures us for a voyage leading to a hopeful and heart-warming message. A page turning, one sitting read, it’s the perfect antidote for the winter and promotion of holiday celebration.” – Ann Pearlman, author of The Christmas Cookie Club and A Gift for my Sister.

“John Mariani’s concise, achingly beautiful novella pulls a literary rabbit out of a hat – a mash-up of the cosmic and the intimate, the tragic and the heart-warming – a Christmas tale for all ages, and all faiths. Read it to your children, read it to yourself… but read it. Early and often. Highly recommended.” – Jay Bonansinga, New York Times bestselling author of Pinkerton’s War, The Sinking of The Eastland, and The Walking Dead: The Road To Woodbury.

“Amazing things happen when you open your heart to an animal. The Hound in Heaven delivers a powerful story of healing that is forged in the spiritual relationship between a man and his best friend. The book brings a message of hope that can enrich our images of family, love, and loss.” – Dr. Barbara Royal, author of The Royal Treatment.


The Encyclopedia of American Food and Drink by John F. Mariani (Bloomsbury USA, $35)

Modesty forbids me to praise my own new book, but let me proudly say that it is an extensive revision of the 4th edition that appeared more than a decade ago, before locavores, molecular cuisine, modernist cuisine, the Food Network and so much more, now included. Word origins have been completely updated, as have per capita consumption and production stats. Most important, for the first time since publication in the 1980s, the book includes more than 100 biographies of Americans who have changed the way we cook, eat and drink -- from Fannie Farmer and Julia Child to Robert Mondavi and Thomas Keller.

"This book is amazing! It has entries for everything from `abalone' to `zwieback,' plus more than 500 recipes for classic American dishes and drinks."--Devra First, The Boston Globe.

"Much needed in any kitchen library."--Bon Appetit.

Now in Paperback, too--How Italian Food Conquered the World (Palgrave Macmillan)  has won top prize  from the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is a rollicking history of the food culture of Italy and its ravenous embrace in the 21st century by the entire world. From ancient Rome to la dolce vita of post-war Italy, from Italian immigrant cooks to celebrity chefs, from pizzerias to high-class ristoranti, this chronicle of a culinary diaspora is as much about the world's changing tastes, prejudices,  and dietary fads as about our obsessions with culinary fashion and style.--John Mariani

"Eating Italian will never be the same after reading John Mariani's entertaining and savory gastronomical history of the cuisine of Italy and how it won over appetites worldwide. . . . This book is such a tasteful narrative that it will literally make you hungry for Italian food and arouse your appetite for gastronomical history."--Don Oldenburg, USA Today. 

"Italian restaurants--some good, some glitzy--far outnumber their French rivals.  Many of these establishments are zestfully described in How Italian Food Conquered the World, an entertaining and fact-filled chronicle by food-and-wine correspondent John F. Mariani."--Aram Bakshian Jr., Wall Street Journal.

"Mariani admirably dishes out the story of Italy’s remarkable global ascent to virtual culinary hegemony....Like a chef gladly divulging a cherished family recipe, Mariani’s book reveals the secret sauce about how Italy’s cuisine put gusto in gusto!"--David Lincoln Ross,

"Equal parts history, sociology, gastronomy, and just plain fun, How Italian Food Conquered the World tells the captivating and delicious story of the (let's face it) everybody's favorite cuisine with clarity, verve and more than one surprise."--Colman Andrews, editorial director of The Daily

"A fantastic and fascinating read, covering everything from the influence of Venice's spice trade to the impact of Italian immigrants in America and the evolution of alta cucina. This book will serve as a terrific resource to anyone interested in the real story of Italian food."--Mary Ann Esposito, host of PBS-TV's Ciao Italia.

"John Mariani has written the definitive history of how Italians won their way into our hearts, minds, and stomachs.  It's a story of pleasure over pomp and taste over technique."--Danny Meyer, owner of NYC restaurants Union Square Cafe,  The Modern, and Maialino.



FEATURED LINKS: I am happy to  report that the Virtual Gourmet is  linked to four excellent travel sites:

Everett Potter's Travel  Report

I consider this the best and savviest blog of its kind on the  web. Potter is a columnist for USA Weekend, Diversion, Laptop and Luxury  Spa Finder, a contributing editor for Ski and  a frequent contributor to National  Geographic Traveler,  and Elle Decor. "I’ve designed this site is for people who take their  travel seriously," says Potter. "For travelers who want to learn about special  places but don’t necessarily want to pay through the nose for the privilege of  staying there. Because at the end of the day, it’s not so much about five-star  places as five-star experiences."  THIS WEEK:

Eating Las Vegas JOHN CURTAS has been covering the Las Vegas food and restaurant scene since 1995. He is the co-author of EATING LAS VEGAS – The 50 Essential Restaurants (as well as the author of the Eating Las Vegas web site: www.eatinglasvegas. He can also be seen every Friday morning as the “resident foodie” for Wake Up With the Wagners on KSNV TV (NBC) Channel 3  in Las Vegas.


MARIANI'S VIRTUAL GOURMET NEWSLETTER is published weekly.  Publisher: John Mariani. Editor: Walter Bagley. Contributing Writers: Christopher Mariani, Robert Mariani,  Misha Mariani, John A. Curtas, Gerry Dawes, Geoff Kalish, and Brian Freedman. Contributing Photographer: Galina Dargery. Technical Advisor: Gerry McLoughlin.


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